Midlands health chiefs backing choice on right to die

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Patients should be given more choice over the way they die, health chiefs in the West Midlands have said.

Patients should be given more choice over the way they die, health chiefs in the West Midlands have said.

West Midlands NHS Strategic Health Authority says the law making it illegal to help someone commit suicide is not fit for the 21st century.

Head of the region's end-of-life care, said it was "not good enough" that only people who could afford to travel to Swiss clinics could control the way they die.

The West Midlands has become the first health authority to back calls for a change in the law and the comments will be seen as a boost for the right to die campaign.

An inquiry organised by think tank Demos and chaired by Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, is currently being held into whether the law should be changed further to legalise assisted dying.

Pauline Smith, who heads end of life care for the region, said the West Midlands Health Authority, which serves 5.4 million people, was "neither for nor against assisted suicide".

But she told the inquiry: "Our view is that the current law does not match the requirements of the 21st century.

"We really do need to look at a system that allows public and patient choice in ways that the law does not allow. At the moment we have a situation where only some people can make that choice.


"If you can afford to go to Switzerland that's fine but if you can't, you are stuck with a system that doesn't really allow you to talk about it, never mind have access to it," she added.

Prof Tim Maughan, a consultant oncologist, rejected Mrs Smith's arguments, claiming that some patients who wanted to commit suicide because they thought they were terminally ill had recovered.

"I think the current law has got it right," he said. "There are principles behind it which are very sound. Doctors should not kill their patients. The vulnerable should be protected."

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